Study in Poland: a guide for international students

Higher Education System in Poland
In the late 1800s, when only men were admitted to universities, Polish scientists began a bold underground movement, teaching secretly in private homes everything from philosophy to art and science. The meetings often moved from place to place around Warsaw, which gave it the name of the Floating University. The most famous graduate of the Floating University is Maria Skłodowska-Curie, who later received many Nobel Prizes for her work.

Polish universities are divided into private and public ones and offer three degrees: Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD. For international students, this means that you can complete any level of education in Poland.

Both public and private universities follow the standards set by the Bologna Process. Therefore, the degrees obtained in Poland are internationally recognised.

You can choose the timetable that suits you, students can attend full-time or part-time programmes. Generally, full-time programmes (also called “inpatient” classes) are held on weekdays.

You can also attend “evening classes” if you choose to study as a student party. If you choose to study as a student, classes are held from Monday to Friday afternoon.

In Poland, the school year starts on 1 October and ends around mid-June, with two semesters: winter and summer. One semester lasts about 4-5 months. Students should get a passing grade for each class in a given semester, but with good organization and teaching methods it is quite easy!

During the exam period, you must either take the exam or receive credit for your essay, extra-curricular activities or other additional activities.

Once you have completed your studies and obtained your diploma, defended your thesis (Bachelor, Engineer, Master) and passed the final exam you will be awarded a professional academic degree. The structure of the education system in Poland is slightly different from that in other European countries:

First training cycle
After completing the first cycle of training (3 to 4 years) you get the professional title of licencjat or inżynier (engineer, in the field of mechanical engineering, agriculture or economics). This is the Polish equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. It is the first step in your academic career and it aims to prepare you for future work or to continue your education in the Master’s programme. ECTS (European Credit Transfer System), used in Poland, is a standard for all higher education institutions in Europe (EHEA), which means that after passing a subject, in addition to the grade, you receive a certain number of ECTS points.

To earn an ECTS degree, you must earn 180-240 ECTS points during your studies.

Second study cycle
The Master’s programme lasts from 1.5 to 2 years and follows the first cycle. Upon completion of your studies you will receive a professional Master’s degree (Master’s degree or equivalent, depending on the course profile).

This degree focuses on theoretical knowledge as well as on the application and development of creative skills. Once you have completed your Master’s degree, you are free to move ahead and enter your doctoral studies (third cycle). However, to earn this degree, you must earn 90-120 ECTS points.

Longer cycles
In Poland there are a number of fields of study which offer long cycle programs: acting, preservation and restoration of works of art, theology, dentistry, law, medicine, cinematography, pharmaceuticals, psychology, veterinary medicine.

This master’s program lasts from 4.5 to 6 years, after which the student receives a master’s degree.

To earn this degree, you must earn 270-360 ECTS points. This type of training is based on a comprehensive curriculum. This means that if you enter a long cycle of study, you will study both the basics of your field of study and an in-depth specialisation. Upon completion of this degree, you will receive a qualification equivalent to a second cycle master’s degree. It’s almost like taking a bachelor’s and master’s degree in one person!

Third cycle
Otherwise known as doctoral programs. This training usually lasts from 3 to 4 years and is available after the completion of the Master’s programme. Since a PhD is a scientific degree, it is offered by universities as well as some research institutes (e.g. branches of the Polish Academy of Sciences). To get this degree, you have to submit and successfully defend your doctoral thesis to the Dissertation Committee and pass the doctoral examination.

Universities in Poland offer annual preparatory courses for international students who are going to enrol in Bachelor’s / Master’s / Doctoral programs, but do not have the necessary language competence, or want to pull up the subjects in the chosen specialty. The studies are conducted in Polish or English depending on the educational programme. Recruitment for the new academic year starts in August-September. Necessary documents:
Application form;
A copy of a passport valid for the whole period of study;
Copy of visa;
Copy of health insurance;
Copy of previous education diploma;
Certificate of tuition fees.
In case of successful completion of the program, students will be awarded with a certificate of B2 language proficiency and/or training in the chosen subjects.

Student visa to Poland
There is no special student visa to Poland. To study at a Polish university, a student needs a temporary residence permit. To obtain it, you need to apply to the local Voivodeship Office, already being in the country. There are 2 types of visas, which students can use to enter Poland:
Type “C” – a short-term Schengen visa, allowing the holder to stay in Schengen territory for up to 90 days within a 180-day period;
Type “D” – long term national visa issued for up to one year. It is not renewable, except in a few cases.
It should be noted that foreigners from a number of countries are exempt from visa requirements when entering the Schengen area for periods not exceeding 90 days within a 180-day period.
An application for a temporary residence permit must be submitted before the visa expires. The documents required:
Application;
Photos and documents proving your identity and nationality;
Address of residence;
Purpose of stay – the letter of admission;
Health insurance;
Certificate of availability of funds for payment of tuition, accommodation and return to home country.
When you obtain a permit, you will be issued with a temporary residence card – proof of identity that confirms the legitimacy of your stay in the country. Together with your travel document, it will allow you to cross the Polish border without restrictions. The first residence permit will be issued for 15 months. It can be extended for up to 3 years, but not longer than the planned period of study.
Health insurance, which is necessary for obtaining a residence permit, can be purchased in advance with the help of insurance agencies or it can be obtained upon arrival by signing a voluntary health insurance agreement with the National Health Fund (Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia – NFZ). The insurance premiums will be about 18 USD per month.